I was digging through my OneNote today, organizing stuff and reading old notes and whatnot, when I found a page I wrote on 7/13/2006. I don’t know why I wrote it in OneNote, but it is something I’ve talked about to my direct reports, colleagues and others for a long time.
It was simply titled “Rules of the Road” and had the following content:
- Don’t stress out about things you can’t control - ignore them
- Don’t stress out about things you can control - fix them
- Confront someone as soon as you recognize the problem - don’t let it fester!
- Help people who sincerely ask for help
- Fight for what you believe in
- Admit when you are wrong
- Reserve the right to change your mind
- You do not have to justify saying no to someone
My dad taught my 1-3 when I was growing up. He had ulcer issues as a younger man because he let stress build up too much. Those rules help you get grounded when you feel stressed and show you simple ways out, even when, as in Rule #1, the out is to ignore the issue.
Numbers 4-7 are extensions I’ve added over time to help me guide my life. Help your friends. Fight for what you believe in. Admit when you make a mistake. Do not be afraid to change your mind. Don’t let other people convince you that “flip flopping” in the presence of new information is somehow bad. When you know better, do better.
The final one is the newest addition to the list. Sometimes many people, when presented with a request they has to say no to, will seek a rationalization or a story that they can use to justify saying no. Here’s the thing… you don’t have to justify saying No. You shouldn’t be rude, you should be always polite and respectful, but you can just say, “No, I’m sorry but I can’t,” and leave it at that.